An Election Day Primer

Election Day is next week and I would like to remind everyone to get out and vote. The best way to have your voice heard and to bring about change is to vote. There are several important elections in Westchester County, including the one for County Executive, so, regardless of your party affiliation, please get out and vote.

There are also six propositions that new Yorkers will be asked to vote on as well. Proposition One concerns authorizing casino gaming.

The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated.

Currently, the NYS Constitution prohibits all gambling except for (1) pari-mutuel wagering and horse racing; (2) State lotteries; (3) bingo conducted by certain charitable, non-profit and religious organizations; and (4) games of chance conducted by these same charitable, non-profit, and religious organizations. This proposal would amend the constitution to authorize casino gambling within the state, allowing for no more than seven casinos.

Proposition Two is an amendment that would provide additional civil service credit for veterans with disabilities certified post-appointment.

The proposed amendment to section 6 of article 5 of the Constitution would entitle a veteran who has received civil service credit for a civil service appointment or promotion and subsequently is certified as disabled to additional civil service credit at subsequent appointment or promotion.

The State Constitution currently grants veterans additional credit on civil service exams (5 points for an original appointment and 2 ½ points for a promotion). Disabled veterans are entitled to additional credit (10 points for an original appointment and 5 points for a promotion). Veterans are eligible for only one grant of additional credit, and so a veteran who is appointed or promoted before being certified as disabled currently is not eligible for the higher amount of credit he or she would have received if he or she had been certified as disabled before his or her appointment or promotion.

The proposed amendment would create an exception to the one-time-only additional credit rule. It would permit veterans who are certified disabled after having already received credit at one appointment or promotion, because of their status as veterans, to received additional credit one more time after certification of their disability. After being certified disabled, a veteran would be entitled to an additional grant of credit equal to the difference between 10 and the number of points received at the initial appointment or promotion. This would bring the total additional points of civil service credit such a veteran can receive to 10 for either an appointment or a promotion.

Proposal Number Three pertains to the exclusion of indebtedness contracted for sewage facilities.

The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 5 of the Constitution would extend for 10 years, until January 1, 2024, the authority of counties, cities, towns, and villages to exclude from their constitutional debt limits indebtedness contracted for the construction or reconstruction of sewage facilities.

The proposed amendment would extend until January 1, 2024 the authority of counties, cities, towns and villages to exclude from their constitutional debt limits indebtedness contracted from the construction and reconstruction of facilities for the conveyance, treatment and disposal of sewage.

Proposal Number Four pertains to settling the disputed title in the forest preserve.

The proposed amendment to section 1 of article 14 of the Constitution would authorize the Legislature to settle longstanding disputes between the State and private entities over certain parcels of land within the forest preserve in the town of Long Lake, Hamilton County. In exchange for giving up its claim to disputed parcels, the State would get land to be incorporated into the forest preserves that would benefit the forest preserve more than the disputed parcels currently do.

The “Forever Wild” clause of the NYS Constitution forbids the lease, sale, exchange or taking of any forest preserve land. The proposed amendment would allow the legislature to settle 100-year-old disputes between the State and private parties over ownership of certain parcels of land located in the forest preserve, in the town of Long Lake, Hamilton County, by giving up the State’s claim to disputed parcels. In exchange, the State would get other land, currently privately owned, to be incorporated into the forest preserve. The land exchange would occur only if the Legislature, or its designee, determines that the land to be conveyed to the State would benefit the forest preserve more than do the disputed parcels.

Proposal Number Five is in relation to a land exchange in the state forest preserve with NYCO Minerals, Inc.

The proposed amendment to section 1 of article 14 of the Constitution would authorize the Legislature to convey forest preserve land located in the town of Lewis, Essex County, to NYCO Minerals, a private company that plans on mining the land. In exchange, the NYCO Minerals would give the State at least the same amount of land of at least the same value, with a minimum assessed value of $1 million, to be added to the forest preserve. When NYCO Minerals finishes mining, it would restore the condition of the land and return it to the forest preserve.

The “Forever Wild” clause of the NYS Constitution forbids the lease, sale, exchange, or taking of any forest preserve land. The proposed amendment would allow the State to convey approximately 200 forest preserve acres to NYCO Minerals for mining. In exchange, NYCO Minerals would give the State at least the same amount of land of at least the same value, with a minimum assessed value of $1 million. This land would be added to the forest preserve. When NYCO Minerals finishes mining, the company would restore the condition of the land it received in the exchange and return it to the forest preserve.

The proposed amendment also would allow NYCO Minerals to test to determine the quantity and quality of the mineral to be mined on the land to be exchanged before the exchange occurs. It would require NYCO Minerals to give the State its test results so that the State can use them to determine the value of the land to be conveyed to NYCO Minerals. The proposed amendment also would require that if, after testing, NYCO Minerals does not want the forest preserve land, NYCO Minerals still must give the State at least the same amount of land of at least the same value of the land that was disturbed by the testing. This land would be incorporated into the forest preserve.

Proposal Number Six, the final one, pertains to increasing the age until which certain state judges can serve.

The proposed amendment to the Constitution, amending sections 2 and 25 of article 6, would increase the maximum age until which certain state judges may serve as follows: (a) a Justice of the Supreme Court would be eligible for five additional two-year terms after the present retirement age of 70, instead of the three such terms currently authorized; and (b) a Judge of the Court of Appeals who reaches the age of 70 in order to complete the term to which that Judge was appointed.

The purpose of this amendment is to increase to the age of 80 the maximum age until which Justices of the Supreme Court (including Appellate Division) and Judges of the Court of Appeals may serve in the following instances:

· Justices of the Supreme Court are currently required to retire in the year they turn 70 years old, but are eligible to continue to perform the duties of a Justice of the Supreme Court for three additional two-year terms upon a certificate that their services are needed by the courts and they are competent to perform the full duties of the office. The proposed amendment would make them eligible for two additional such two-year terms, upon the same certification of need and competence.
· Judges of the Court of Appeals are currently required to retire in the year they turn 70 years old. The proposed amendment would permit a Judge who reaches the age of 70 while in office to remain in service on the Court for up to 10 additional years in order to complete the term to which that Judge was appointed.

The proposed amendment would also prohibit the appointment of any person over the age of 70 to the Court of Appeals.

There is an excellent and more detailed description of these proposals put out by The Westchester League of Women Voters at http://watpa.org/lwv/voterservice.html. Read them carefully and know what it is you would be voting for. Getting out and voting is of the utmost importance. Knowing what you would be voting for is equally important.

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